Dee Wilbur in the Media

The Houston Chronicle

2 area writers pen mystery novel
By John Pape

Richmond, not typically known as a hotbed of intrigue, is just that in a new mystery novel penned by two area authors. In A Jealous God, Dr. Charles Yates Jr., and Dee Pipes, writing under the pen name of Dee Wilbur, have made Richmond the focal point in a story about an attorney searching for the cause of a rash of birth defects. The common thread is that everyone affected has ties to Richmond. Yates, a retired radiologist, lives in Richmond. Pipes, the owner of a consulting company, lives in Houston. The two have known one another for more than two decades.

"We had adjacent seats at Rice University basketball games for over 20 years, so with that much shared suffering we were destined to become good friends," Yates laughed.

The novel had its genesis over dinner when Pipes asked what Yates intended to do after his retirement. "I told Dee that I had always wanted to write a book and that I might do that. About a week letter, I got an e-mail from Dee saying that she felt I needed help writing this book and she felt that she was the one to help me," Yates said.

Both had previously written for scientific and technical publications, but this was the first joint venture into fiction writing for the duo. Pipes said that their styles and strengths as writers work well together. "Charlie is wonderfully linear, and I add the 'fluff' to the story," Pipes explained. "We complement each other in the things we write about."

"I can tell a story from A to Z, but nobody would read it because it wouldn't be a good story without color or interest," Yates said. "Dee could make my version of the telephone book sound interesting." The pen name is a combination of the pair's middle names. Pipes' full name is Beatrice Dee Pipes, while Yates' is Charles Wilbur Yates Jr. The two jokingly refer to themselves as "half an author."

Like many aspiring novelists, the two quickly discovered that getting the manuscript written was only the beginning. "We sent out 100 query letters to agents in one mailing. We received 100 rapid rejections," Yates recalled. "Nobody read the manuscript. We're not even sure anybody read our query letter," Pipes added. They then decided to "spice up" their pitch, including such phrases such as, "you've been waiting all your life for this one," in the letters to prospective agents. The strategy worked. From the first 10 re-written query letters, Yates and Pipes received five letters of interest. Four of the agents read the entire manuscript, and two made offers to represent the book to publishers. The duo settled on Houston-based agent Leslie Rivers, a decision which ultimately led to the publication of "A Jealous God."

The title comes from the second part of the Third Commandment, which says, "I, thy God, am a jealous God visiting the inequity of the fathers unto the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me and showing mercy unto the thousands of those that love me and keep my commandments." The reason for the title is eventually revealed in the book. Although the novel is set in Richmond, both Pipes and Yates stressed that none of the characters are real. "You will recognize many of the locations, but we do not claim that the characters are based on real people, although several people from Richmond have claimed to have recognized themselves," Pipes said. "The story is fiction. Much of the medical content is accurate, but we did take some license," Yates added.

Now that their first novel is in print, the two writers are continuing to work on other projects. "We have our agent shopping the first book in a series set on the Mississippi coast prior to Hurricane Katrina. It's titled 'Kitten's Play,'" Pipes said. "We have two more novels almost completed in the Richmond series, and a second one completed in the Mississippi series."

Ellen Tanner Marsh, a New York Times bestselling author, praised "A Jealous God," calling it "a fast-paced mix of mystery and intrigue." National author Herman Brune encouraged readers to "dive into this story." "It is a thought-provoking formula that will haunt your daydreams," Brune said.